Sunday, August 30, 2009

number six

6. Nirvana, Nevermind. So I was checking out that other dude's blog a little while ago, and suddenly realized that there is going to be a lot of potential for overlap as we both "plunge" into the Top 10 here, no pun intended. (see the photo at left) So let me just say, first of all, that I had Nirvana penciled in here months ago, back when I started this crazy venture. (Or was that years ago?) And second of all, why do people be hatin' so much now? Can't I do a simple Top 50 albums, without being accused of plagiarism?

But I digress. Nevermind. Ah yes, Nevermind. Where would rock 'n' roll be without you, Nevermind? It's a little scary to even think about that. Definitely, it would be a different place, a worse place. Although it's not like a band hadn't come along before and explicitly said, "We don't give a [f-bomb] about what people think of us! We're gonna play loud, we're gonna play mean, and we just don't care. And also, we're putting a picture of a baby swimming after a dollar bill on the cover." When I say that, I think of the Sex Pistols most of all. But really, there have been plenty of bands that have come along with that kind of attitude. In fact, just about every punk band out there, right? But very, very few of those bands have had the talent to make many people notice what they're doing, and to pause, and to ultimately foster a sea change in rock music. (again, no pun intended)

I think I remember where I was when I first heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (driving near Albany, NY). And I definitely remember where I was when I first heard about Kurt Cobain's death (heading for my temp job at Harborview). I wouldn't say I necessarily turned into a huge Nirvana fan after the former, though "Teen Spirit" itself rocked my world. But by the time Kurt Cobain died, I had really developed an appreciation for a lot more of Nirvana's music, and had seen the influence that Nirvana had had on modern rock. A good influence, a huge influence.

RIP, Kurt. Hard to believe it's been over 15 years now.

P.S. My Top 5 Nirvana songs, off the top of my head: Pennyroyal Tea, School, Dive, Verse Chorus Verse, Dimension 7. Oh, and can't forget Smells Like Teen Spirit. Make that my Top 6.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

happy birthday, mad city

I'm putting my Top 50 countdown on hold for a moment to wish a slightly belated happy birthday to Mad City. It was one year and two days ago that I busted out my first entry here, and 120 entries later we're going stronger than ever. That's right: this one is #120. That's, like, almost an entry every 3 days. And I went for almost a month this summer without writing anything! Damn. If I didn't have to work, I would be almost unstoppable.
Speaking of which, I'm dog-tired after spending the weekend at my sister's place in Chicago, which is also the reason this birthday notice is a little late. So, time for me to crash, and maybe tomorrow we'll get started on Year Two ...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

number seven

7. David Bowie, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. My earliest memories of David Bowie are the "Let's Dance" video, which was played all the time on MTV for a while, and the other songs from "Let's Dance." But though I liked "Let's Dance" a lot (and it was a hell of an album), I was too lazy or apathetic or whatever to really check out the other shizzle from David Bowie's past.

I mean, sure, I heard "Starman" and "Young Americans" and whatnot on the radio or at parties. I had plenty of exposure to his greatest hits album. But here's my quibble with greatest-hits albums, and AOR, and that kind of thing: they leave some really good songs behind. And Ziggy Stardust was loaded with good songs, beyond "Starman" and the title track (although the song "Ziggy Stardust" probably defines David Bowie more than any other of his songs, I would say).

So, a few years ago, I was driving home and happened to hear "Moonage Daydream" on the radio, and it blew me away. I had just not heard it before, to my recollection. And roughly around the same time, the Wes Anderson movie "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," with all those great bossa nova covers by Pele, came out. And I just gained a huge new appreciation for David Bowie and his musical accomplishments.

Amazing, isn't it? This album came out just a few years after I was born, and I didn't come to fully appreciate it until just a few years ago. I guess that's as good an argument as any to play Tegan and Sara for your kids right now.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

number eight

8. Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run. Well duh, right? We all knew this would be in the Top 10, didn't we? Not because I'm the #1 Boss fan in the world, but just because it'd be very difficult to leave Born to Run off the top of the list. First of all, Springsteen is America's troubadour, right? And with all the great albums he's put out in his career, I think this one clearly shines the most.

I'm not a Bruce Springsteen expert, and I think you'd need to be one to write something original about Born to Run. Or any of his albums, for that matter. There aren't many musicians who have fans as devoted as his, and from what I've heard he's just as devoted to them. (Apparently, 3-hour shows are standard for him.) I've gained more and more respect for Springsteen over the years, and his endorsement of John Kerry over Bush back in 2004 helped take the sting out of a bitter loss in that election. But I can still think back to college, and listening to this album (which had come out only about 10 years before I'd started college), and feeling connected to a golden age of rock that I hadn't actually lived through. And though I grew up a ways away from New Jersey in upstate NY, it still seemed like half of the songs on Born to Run were written about my hometown. I'm not quite sure how Springsteen did that, but apparently millions of people have felt the same way. Not so much the place as the feeling.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

number nine

9. U2, Achtung Baby. This is bullshit, man! I haven't blogged anything since July 11? That sucks. I knew I shouldn't have gone to med school ...

Well, July was a busy month, but it's time to get down to brass tacks and face the music again. One of my goals when I started my Top 50 here was to have it done in, like, 3 weeks. And it's already been about 6 months or something like that. And that's just horrendous bullshit! But I digress ... so, U2. Yeah, I know what you're thinking, some of you. You're thinking that Bono's an annoying, self-important tool, and that U2's past their prime, and that they were overrated to begin with. And some of that may definitely be true. But at one point, these guys were the bomb. (I think it was sometime before How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.) You had your The Joshua Tree, and The Unforgettable Fire, and War, and Rattle and Hum. And then Achtung Baby came along, and left everything else in its tracks.

Every song on here is good, really good, and several are ... rock 'n' roll classics. Is anyone going to argue with me that "One" is not a giant of rock 'n' roll? After it's been covered by the likes of Johnny Cash, and Michael Stipe, and Adam Lambert? Come on! And how about "Mysterious Ways," and "Until the End of the World?" So many good songs, fitting together so well. There was nowhere to go but down afterwards, or at least off in a different direction. They've had a few more good songs here and there, but I haven't bought a U2 album since "Zooropa."

Or maybe my tastes just changed. Who the hell knows. But I do know this: this was the album I bought a CD player for (the one I still use, as a matter of fact), as the era of mass vinyl came to an end. And it makes me happy to say that, because you should be able to look back on your first CD with pride. And I do give a tip of the hat to Bono for his humanitarian work. You may strike some as pompous, Bono, but all in all you're a good man. And your band's best album belongs in everybody's Top 10.